In a story that spans two centuries, an extended family of German Jews – one half living in Germany and the other whose lives are centered around the Vatican – is threatened by the onslaught of Nazism. Set in the dark years of Hitler’s regime, the book offers a peek into daily life and desperate stories of the well-to-do Jewish middle class of Berlin caught up in events they never thought possible. In their houses one meets Albert Einstein and the inventors of talking movies, people whose private lives were spied upon by the German regime.
Even in the Vatican there is no lack of spies: the Wehrmacht is tapping the private telephone of Pope Pius XII. It was a time of hunger, when food was sent into to the tiny city-state to help feed the pope, when bolts of cloth and other daily necessities were stored in the Vatican Museums and barrels of salted fish were hidden under the Sistine Chapel. Bombs even hit the tiny state but when things were relatively calm, foreign ambassadors from countries at war with Italy – who had taken refuge in the Vatican because they could not stay in Rome – passed their time by playing golf in the shadow of the imposing dome of St Peter’s Basilica.
This book recounts the memories of Giulio Bartoloni, the first “Vaticanista” – the name Italians give to journalists who specialize in Vatican affairs – rounded out by the news reports of his son Bruno up to the present-day pontificate of Benedict XVI. The reader discovers scandals and secrets but many doubtful urban legends are deflated. The possibility that Italian wartime dictator Benito Mussolini had Pope Pius XI killed in 1939 – as Cardinal Eugene Tisserant later asserted – is shown to be highly unlikely.
It is not a novel but an entertaining and moving memoir of a unique family living in a unique period in history.PDF format